Interfaith Chaplain, Rabbinic Pastor, Wedding Officiant, Entertainer and Clown
Elissa is an Interfaith Chaplain, Rabbinic Pastor in the Jewish Renewal Tradition, Cantorial Soloist, Rebbetzin Emeritus, and Wedding Officiant who performs lifecycle services for all religious denominations. She has been divorced and widowed, and understands the journeys through which so many of us travel.
In 2004 she began her studies for ordination as a Rabbinic Pastor. She studied privately with Rabbi Aryeh Alpern of Temple Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, and Rabbi David Rafael Senter, her husband, a 4th generation Rabbi from an Orthodox tradition. These studies took place over 5 years, and culminated in receiving her ordination in 2009.
She has practiced Reform, Conservative, Jewish Renewal, and Orthodox Judaism. She has been nicknamed "The Confusadox" and "The Boss." She has officiated at over 300 weddings, baby namings, brits, renewals of vows, commitment ceremonies, conversions, and get ceremonies.
Elissa is accepting of and supports all interfaith and LGBTQIA+ unions.
When Elissa became a chaplain, or what she calls a "non-denominational spiritual facilitator," it changed her life. She was inspired to become a chaplain in 2006 when she and her late husband, Rabbi David Senter, were volunteering at a senior residence. During the Shabbat Service, one of the residents with dementia threw a paper airplane at Rabbi Senter and Elissa caught it in mid-flight, before it hit him. Elissa immediately comforted the senior with understanding and compassion.The chaplain approached Elissa afterwards with words of appreciation and praise at her skills. He asked if she were interested in working with him at the residence.
She was trained on the job and later that year, pursued formal educational training in dementia and Alzheimer's Disease. She completed her Clinical Pastoral Education training at North Shore University Hospital, Long Island Jewish Medical Center, NY.
Elissa is a mother to a blended family of 5 children, 21 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.
Elissa Kaplan Senter (left) wife of the late Rabbi David Senter, and friend Yasmin Alani, wife of the imam of the Islamic Society, bake bread together and talk about peace and understanding in their community.
Elissa's Love Story
Elissa was married to Rabbi David Senter, whom she met on JDate in 2003. Her life changed on July 24th during their first four-hour telephone conversation. They spoke almost every night until August 31, when he drove from Saratoga Springs, NY to her home in Spring Valley, NY. In less than one year, they were engaged and got married on May 31, 2004.
Rabbi David passed on December 1st, 2017. His impact on her life is immeasurable. Please see the article here about their faith and love and how they blended their spiritual and personal lives.
Elissa with her husband, the late Rabbi David Senter
Life as a Performer
In addition to her work as a Rabbinic Pastor and Interfaith Counselor, Elissa draws on her talents as a performing artist, which she has been since the tender age of 9. She is a voice over artist for TV, radio, and audio books; an off-Broadway stage actor; a film and television actor. In addition, she created and performed the character of Chuckles the Musical Clown. She has studied and performed with some of the most talented and well known artists in the industry. Check out her biography for a full list of her credits.
Elissa lives by Torah values in all she does
Tikun Olam - Repairing the world
Mitzvah - Doing good deeds
Tzedakah - Giving to those in need
As a Interfaith Chaplain, Elissa would love to officiate at your b'nai mitzvah, wedding, baptismal, baby naming, brit, funeral, or shiva. She takes a collaborative approach to all the events she officiates, and makes sure that your day turns out the way YOU want it to. Supportive and accepting of all lifestyles, faiths, and orientations, Elissa will help you make your day special, whatever the milestone.
Let Elissa help you with your lifecycle event
Elissa is available for individual and group spiritual and pastoral counseling. She has helped hundreds of people with grief and loss and can help you through:
trauma, grief, and loss
family mental illness
decisions faced by an interfaith family
talking with your parents about the choices you make with your chosen family
Individual and group counseling tele-sessions are now available, or in person in lawn chairs near her SoCal home.